However, the prejudices of a lifetime can change in an instant when you are under pressure. And today I was under pressure. I bought a new web domain and I wanted to get a basic web site up and running as fast as I possibly could – preferably before lunch. While it would have been possible, just about, to knock something up in a few hours using Adobe Dreamweaver, the chances are that the end result would be pretty primitive with only very basic layout and styling. So I thought I’d see how far I could get using Serif WebPlus X6. And the answer is: quite a long way. By picking a pre-designed template from its site wizard, I was able instantly to create nine linked pages (index, about, products, links and so on) complete with menus, columns, font-styles and even a simple contact form. After tailoring the pages to taste, changing the headers and text, and deleting the ones I didn’t need, I’d whittled it down to a 5-page site in about an hour. In fact, I soon decided that for my very basic site I only really needed three pages and so I deleted the unwanted extras, then carried on customising the remaining three by dragging text blocks and images to the desired locations and selecting a transition to animate the two main images on the home page.
To create a new site in WebPlus X6 you just pick a template and the Wizard generates a set of pre-designed and linked pages
Sure enough, my simple site was all finished before lunch. So, WebPlus X6 had met my target with time to spare. I was impressed. Let me qualify that, I was fairly impressed. ‘Fairly’ but not ‘completely’.
On the plus side, it really is easy to get a site up and running by using pre-designed templates that automatically style multiple pages and link them together with menus. WebPlus has lots of ready-to-use widgets that let you create tables, forms, calendars and image galleries just by dragging and dropping them onto a page. You can make finer-level adjustments by setting properties in docked panels and popup dialogs.
Here I’ve tailored the Index page by adding my own text and headings and making a few other alterations to the basic layout
The downside is that the program is so intent on hiding the code it generates that it becomes hard to tailor the supplied templates and components. If you want to create pages that are the least bit different from what the software expects, you are on your own. Increasing the sizes of pages, for example, is a hit and miss affair – you can drag the edges to resize them, but the associated effects, such as colours and shadings, may not auto-resize correctly and, frankly, my attempts at resizing were pretty unsuccessful. Moreover, the WebPlus templates are all fixed-size with no inherent support for fluid layouts which means that the pages to do not auto-resize to fit the browser or make adjustments to the contents of a page.
I also had a few problems with the FTP tool for uploading my site. My web host lets me maintain multiple add-on domains (in effect, these are independent web sites that are stored online in named subdirectories but which nevertheless appear as top-level domains when you view them in a browser). My attempts to upload my files to the appropriate sub-folder failed abysmally. Even though I entered the folder name into the FTP dialog, my uploaded files ended up in the top-level directory and I had to sort out the mess by deleting those files and re-uploading my site using Dreamweaver. Now maybe I made a mistake when I configured the FTP uploading and maybe there is a way around the problem. However, the lack of a fully-integrated online file manager to let me monitor the locations to which my files are being uploaded makes it hard to deal with problems like this. There is a ’maintain site’ option that can show online files in a popup dialog but this is a bit primitive.
There are lots of tools to support graphics and multimedia. Here, for example, I am generating a transition to fade one image into another
If, on the other hand, you are certain that you never want to do any hands-on coding, then WebPlus might be a satisfactory solution. It certainly makes it easy and fast to create a pretty slick-looking web site. It is also inexpensive. But you need to be prepared to work within its limitations.
This is the Home page of my site – all done and duisted in time for lunch. You can visit the site HERE (but note, the site will no doubt change over time – all I can guarantee is that this is how it was in January, 2013…)